Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Wednesday accused the South African apartheid regime of murdering the country’s first president, Samora Machel.
Guebuza was speaking in Maputo’s Independence Square, at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of Machel’s death in a plane crash at Mbuzini, just inside South Africa, on 19 October 1986.
Guebua recalled that the plane crash followed “repeated public threats against our head of state made by top members of the apartheid government” – he was referring to threats against Machel’s life made by the apartheid defence minister, Magnus Malan, in early October 1986.
The context of Machel’s death was a diplomatic drive by the Front Line States to attempt to separate South Africa from its regional allies – the dictatorships of Kamuzu Banda in Malawi, and Mobuto Sese Seko in Zaire.
On 19 October 1986, Machel had travelled to a summit in the Zambian town of Mbala. Machel, and the Presidents of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, and of Angola, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, had been mandated by a meeting of the front line states held in Maputo a week earlier to speak directly with Mobutu.
At the time, Guebuza recalled, “Zaire was giving direct support to UNITA which, in alliance with the apartheid regime, was cutting down human lives in Angola and destroying that brother country”.
But on its return from Mbala, Samora Machel’s plane “was diverted from its flight path, and smashed violently into the hills of Mbuzini”.
Guebuza thought the crash was no accident – instead the plane had been lured away from its correct path by a pirate navigational beacon. The Mozambican government, he insisted, still wanted to know in full the circumstances of Machel’s death and to see that justice is eventually done.
Machel “did not shed his blood in vain”, added Guebuza, “since the ideals for which he fought are becoming a reality”. The evidence for this included the fact that the southern African region is now “free from apartheid and the forces of destabilisation”.
Machel had supported the patriotic and revolutionary forces in Uganda and East Timor, countries which today “are at peace with themselves and their neighbours”. Under Machel’s government, Mozambique had welcomed many refugees from Chile, fleeing from the fascist dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet – today, Guebuza noted, they had returned to a democratic Chile “to enjoy the freedoms that the rule of law allows”.
To honour Samora Machel’s internationalist ideals, today the Mozambican government “reaffirms our support for the just struggle of the people of the Western Sahara for their self-determination and independence, and for the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign state and UN membership”.
Machel, Guebuza said, “embodied the most sublime dreams of our heroic people, and delivered himself, body and soul, as the mechanism for achieving those dreams. He was a man of the people, and a faithful interpreter of their wishes”.
“As the leader of our liberation, and as the head of our state, he deepened our sense of solidarity with the people of the world”, Guebuza added. Machel’s example “of heroism and dedication to his people and to the peoples of other parts of the world” provided the indispensable teachings and inspiration “so that we may continue on this path towards freeing Mozambicans from the scourge of poverty”.
“A man with the stature of President Samora Machel does not end in himself”, declared Guebuza. “He becomes intertwined with the ideals of his people, and becomes immortal. For this reason, Samora lives!”
At Independence Square, in front of Maputo City Hall, Guebuza unveiled a gigantic statue of Samora Machel. The 4.8 tonne bronze statue shows Machel gazing down the avenue which bears his name towards the Bay of Maputo.
The statue is nine metres tall, standing on a plinth that is 2.7 metres high, giving the entire construction a height of 11.7 metres, making it the largest statue in the country. Before Mozambican independence in 1975, this spot was occupied by a statue of the Portuguese warlord Mouzinho de Albuquerque. That statue now languishes in the Maputo fortress, which has been turned into a museum.
Monuments to Samora Machel are also being built in the country’s ten provincial capitals.
The ceremony was attended by three other heads of state from the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region – presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Ian Khama of Botswana and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, as well as former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, and representatives of the governments of Angola, Tanzania, Swaziland and Malawi.